Interictal pontine metabolism in migraine without aura patients: A 3 Tesla proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Neuroimage Clin. 2021 Sep 20;32:102824. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102824. Online ahead of print.


In the pons, glutamatergic mechanisms are involved in regulating inhibitory descending pain modulation, serotoninergic neurotransmission as well as modulating the sensory transmission of the trigeminovascular system. Migraine involves altered pontine activation and structural changes, while biochemical, genetic and clinical evidence suggests that altered interictal pontine glutamate levels may be an important pathophysiological feature of migraine abetting to attack initiation. Migraine without aura patients were scanned outside attacks using a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy protocol optimized for the pons at 3 Tesla. The measurements were performed on two separate days to increase accuracy and compared to similar repeated measurements in healthy controls. We found that interictal glutamate (i.e. Glx) levels in the pons of migraine patients (n = 33) were not different from healthy controls (n = 16) (p = 0.098), while total creatine levels were markedly increased in patients (9%, p = 0.009). There was no correlation of glutamate or total creatine levels to migraine frequency, days since the last attack, usual pain intensity of attacks or disease duration. In conclusion, migraine is not associated with altered interictal pontine glutamate levels. However, the novel finding of increased total creatine levels suggests that disequilibrium in the pontine energy metabolism could be an important feature of migraine pathophysiology.

Keywords: (1)H-MRS; Brainstem; Energy metabolism; Glutamate; Headache; Mitochondrial.